Friday, January 11, 2008

Giants Give Invitations to 15 for Spring Training

News on sfgiants.com: the Giants have invited 15 non-roster players to spring training. The players invited include:
  • Bartolome Fortunato: never heard of him! Righty reliever, 33 years old, missed 2007 due to Tommy John surgery, but he "was dominant for Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, going 3-0 and tossing 13 1/3 scoreless innings over 15 relief appearances. He struck out 12 for the Gigantes while yielding four hits in 41 at-bats for a .098 opponents' average." He only has 20 games of major league experience, be still my heart! On the pictorial scale of prospects, he is "throw jell-o at the wall and see if he sticks".
  • Victor Santos: 31 year old right-hander won 11 games for Brew Crew in 2004, but hasn't done much else and has been bouncing from team to team the last few years. He doesn't strike out a lot, though enough, but then walks too much, particularly given his lower strike out rate, and gives up a lot of homers, plus righties are hitting him now, as well as lefties. He also doesn't miss bats enough, he gives up more than the .300 mean pitchers are suppose to regress to. However, Baseball Forecaster lists him as 4.95 ERA in 2008, meaning he could get down towards usefulness in the mid-4's pitching in SF. Not really a prospect, just a body in camp in case the young pitchers expected to take spots in the rotation, namely Correia, Sanchez, and Misch, all fail to do their job, then he probably pitches in AAA and be ready to come up if injuries, god forbid, should happen.
  • Keiichi Yabu: righty reliever, I think he's 38, was with the A's one season, so he has some experience and is not a prospect, just there to see how he does and in case younger relievers flake out.
  • Steve Holm: catching prospect, already 28 years old but catchers tend to develop later, power hitter, wasn't good enough to make Baseball America Top 30 in last season's list, but hit well with Connecticut, hitting for average and sporting a great BB/K ratio of 1.08 (hitters who can keep that ratio over 1.0 regularly hit .300) and that's due to him walking a lot (a great 14%), plus not striking out too much (15% strike out rate translates to a 85% contact rate, min for good hitters). Wow, really nice road numbers, Dodd Stadium strikes again: .276/.392/.447/.840 overall and 10 HR in 257 AB, which is good (though not good MLE apparently, probably due to age), but at home he hit only .244/.356/.386/.742, 3 HR in 127 AB (42 AB/HR), 142 ISO versus away he hit .308/.427/.508/.934, 7 HR in 130 AB (19 AB/HR), 200 ISO (huge power). That's very similar to the splits that prospects playing at Dodd suffered in 2006 had suffered in their power numbers, and his BABIP at Dodd was .277 vs. road of .308. I assume he'll be in AAA in 2008, sharing time with the loser between Alfonso and Rodriguez for the backup position, heck, if he hits as well as his road numbers suggest, he could win the backup spot - though I have to assume that his defense probably is not the greatest if he's hitting well, like he did in 2006 and didn't make the prospect lists.
  • Pablo Sandoval: young (21 year old) catcher who revived his prospect status with a good year at San Jose this past season. He was highly touted going into 2006 but couldn't do much right trying to move to 3B from C, so they still advanced him to San Jose, Advanced A, but moved him back to C and he did well there, hitting .287/.314/.476/.790 with 11 HR in 401 AB (36 AB/HR). I assume he goes to the black hole that is Dodd Stadium by advancing to AA, and with his poor plate discipline of 0.31 BB/K, much like Ishikawa, he might stumble there and lose his renewed prospect status, as it is his power (and to a lesser extent, his BA) that is moving him up. The ray of sunshine is that unlike Ishikawa, he has a good eye and only stuck out 13% of the time in 2007, or a 87% contract rate, which only the best hitters get above. Since that seemed to help Holm, perhaps Sandoval will be able to hit OK enough there to get moved up to AAA in 2009.
  • Jackson Williams: catcher we drafted in supplemental round in 2007, he hit well in college (will be 21 early in 2008 season) but apparently the scouts were not impressed as he's not expected to be that good a hitter. His main value is that he is considered to be a very good defensive catcher, who is capable of calling games (a rarity today apparently). He didn't hit that well in the minors - he signed early enough to get into a bunch of games - but his splits suggest (though small samples) that it might have been flukey, he's a righty but hit very well against RHP but poorly against LHP, and he hit very poorly at home but very well on the road. They probably want to see him up close and personal, being from a top college, he should be playing at a higher level than he did last season, when he was up only to get his feet wet, and need to check him out to see if San Jose is better (advanced A) or Augusta (A-ball).
  • Brian Bocock: Was 26th ranked prospect on BA's Top 30 list for 2007 season, the soon to be 23 year old middle infielder who plays mainly SS, did well in Augusta - for most peripherals except power - but then scuffled in San Jose when he was promoted. Speedster, he stole 41 bases (but was caught 18 times, so that's not good).
  • Emmanuel Burriss: Was a top ranked prospect for the 2007 season but started very cold - reportedly because he improperly prepared for the season, a mistake that he will not repeat, but also perhaps because he was promoted too high, to San Jose. He did better when he was demoted to Augusta. Has a lot of speed, stealing 68 bases (18 CS, adequately successful, but could be deadly with some technique; hello Dave Roberts!) and made BA's Top 10 list for 2008 prospects (I think he was 10th).
  • Brett Harper: New lefty hitting 1B Giants picked up from Mets farm system somehow (was the Mets #14 prospect for 2007), he's 26 year old for the 2008 season and did really well in AA for last season after missing much of the 2006 season due to shoulder injury, but for some reason wasn't promoted at all after hitting .296/.343/.500/.843 with 24 HR in 476 AB (20 AB/HR, very good) and 204 ISO. BA thought that despite his all or nothing hitting approach and poor defensive presence, if he continues to hit for the power he is capable of, he can be a regular for someone somewhere, if not for the Mets - he had 36 homers between A+ and AA in 2005 in 466 AB (13 AB/HR, great rate!). Heck, forget about Ishikawa (see McClain comment below; for some reason my cut/paste function disappears when I'm using Blogger), Harper should be the starting 1B in AAA. Son of former major leaguer, Brian Harper.
  • Justin Leone: very old (31 years old soon) prospect who can play 3B and, if I remember right, he also played CF too at Fresno. Has lot of power and some speed/stealing technique (26 steals, only 1 CS!), leading some fans to think that he could be the answer at 3B or CF during 2007 season. There's a reason he has little MLB experience (32 games) and is over 30.
  • Scott McClain: very old (36 years old in early season) prospect who can play 1B. Has a lot of power and got the call-up in September, where he got into some games, but he has even less MLB experience than Leone (30 games). Seems like he could be an OK backup and power source off the bench, but he's blocking Ishikawa's way to AAA, where I think he should be playing since his options are up this season, and either he stays with the MLB team in 2009 or have to be put on waivers and risk being claimed, but it looks like he's slated for AA again in 2008, where he has zero confidence (or at least has shown zero confidence there), may as well kiss him good-bye.
  • Ivan Ochoa: Nice pickup we got from Cleveland for last season, his bad rap had been his hitting as his fielding at SS as been considered ready for the MLB, but he had a nice year in AAA with Fresno. Only just turned 25 years old, so if he has another good offensive year in AAA, the Giants might decide to release Vizquel before he can vest his option for 2009 by appearing in enough games, and play Ochoa as his MLE was .646 OPS in 2007, which is not far from what Vizquel hit after his cold April. But don't hold high hopes, as he had struggled for a long time to hit, so he needs to repeat in 2008, but the silver lining there is that his contact rate has been nearly 85% the past couple of years, so he does have some ability, just never put it all together until last season. The only head scratcher is that he stole a lot of bases in 2006, but not so much with us in 2007.
  • Ben Copeland: top draft pick (but 4th round because we lost all our higher picks due to free agent signings) in 2005, the CF just turned 24. Has had two OK seasons with Augusta and San Jose, so I assume he jumps to Connecticut this season. Exhibiting little power - none of his HR power in college translated to the pros unfortunately - he should not be affected as much by Dodd offensively. Had 30 SB in 2006 but only 14 in 2007. He is considered a good athlete and a total package but no tools stand out, according to my BA Handbook for 2007 prospects. Looks like another in a long line of CF who can play good defense, use his speed to steal bases, but can't do much else. The good news is that he hit OK the last two seasons, so if he keep on advancing, he could make the majors in 2009-2010 and be a good 4th OF.
  • Brian Horwitz: The 25 year old leftfielder has hit at every level he has played at, and almost always wins the batting title whereever he has played professionally (when he has enough AB/PA to qualify :^). Unfortunately, that's the only thing the Giants #30 top prospects by BA can do, as he has no power or speed. He made the move to AAA last year and did really well. He really reduced his strikeout rate in 2007 - and it was good before, just among the best now. He probably would make a good 4th OF in 2009 and main PH. He has also played some 1B, so he might see some games there, but his power profiles more like a SS, so he's definitely lacking the power to start at 1B.
  • Mike McBryde: Rated the fastest player in the system by BA, in a system that has a lot of speedsters, the #12 top prospect, the soon to be 23 year old CF had what I would call a disappointing season in Augusta. Only 14 SB (11 CS) and struck out way too much for someone who would profile as a lead-off hitter (and walked way too little to boot). But that is kind of too be expected as he is kind of raw for a hitter, as he also was a closer as well as CF in college (low 90's fastball with a plus curveball). BA said that the Giants view him as above-average defensively in CF already at the start of the 2007 season, and that they will have to work hard with him to make him into a legitimate hitter.
For 2008, keep an eye out for Harper, Ochoa, and Horwitz, maybe Yabu, Fortunato, Holm, Leone and McClain, in about that order (maybe flip-flop Harper and Ochoa). Harper seems the most likely though, given his power and only Dan Ortmeier standing in his way. As much as I've been advocating Ortmeier, I would be just about as happy with Harper if he can force his way to the majors with a great spring. I'm just looking of cheap there who has potential of doing well there. Heck, they could even platoon, Harper is a lefty.

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